Press-stroke your Cold away

October 9, 2015 0 comments Health, Pain and Injury

You feel a cold coming on, perhaps slight soreness in the throat, a sneeze here and there. Now is the time to act. I’ve provided some homecare remedies on my website ( you can follow, but have you thought of using a blunt tool to rub across your skin? No, probably not. Chinese Medicine and cultures across South East Asia have a secrete weapon: Gua sha which does just that.   It essentially provokes an immune response, so helping your body fight off the invading virus. For people with asthma and sinusitis, tackling a cold at the outset is important before it can lead to more serious complications, such as a lung infection.


Gua sha boosts immune protection

Studies show that Gua sha increases immune cells known as white blood cells in the blood. Gua sha upregulates an enzyme called heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) which besides its immune regulating effects, is an anti-oxidant and cytoprotectant (protects cells). This has consequences for our immune system, including allergy and autoimmunity. Dr Arya Nielsen, the western authority on Gua sha, says that HO-1 has many benefits in the body and a “potential role in antiviral therapy”.   She cites research in China that has shown HO-1 to be linked to helping to resolve fever, cough, asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Searches on PUBMED the biggest online library of biomedical research papers reveal there are nearly 8,000 research studies on HO-1. Dr Nielsen mentioned that big pharmaceutical companies are trying to isolate this enzyme and make it workable as a drug due to its many health benefits. Yet a simple press-stroking technique delivers all this without any adverse side-effects. Dr Nielsen comments, “if it Gua Sha was a drug, it would be hailed as a medical breakthrough”.

Dr Arya Nielsen and Tracey Goulding
It was a great pleasure and privilege to meet Dr Arya Nielsen at her lecture on Gua Sha.

How does Gua sha work

By rubbing a blunt tool over lubricated skin, it causes some blood to be released from their vessels and move under the skin. This is initially seen as red dots in the skin or petechiae to use the medical term. The immune system jumps into action to breakdown these blood cells as they are reabsorbed, so these dots merge, fade to red and yellow and disappear over 2 to 4 days. The breakdown of the haemoglobin in the red blood cells upregulates HO-1 as well as carbon monoxide, biliverdin and bilirubin, which are beneficial in the body. The initial red colouring looks dramatic though and unfortunately in the West is wrongly interpreted as abuse or bruising. That’s really why it isn’t used that often in the West and sadly its therapeutic benefits are lost. Dr Nielsen and a few other acupuncturists in the West are on a mission to bring these benefits to everyone.   It is a simple technique and easy to learn at home. I am convinced that as more people experience Gua sha’s therapeutic benefits, word-of-mouth will see it move into the mainstream of acupuncture treatment.

Read Dr Arya Nielsen’s research paper on the science behind this traditional technique.

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